Pre-Fabricated Transparency Strains Credibility

by David Heitman

Seems like self-deprecating humility and yielding to the social media-equipped masses are in vogue these days.

Dominos Pizza, in an effort to capitalize on the social media-driven world of “listenomics,” is running a massive campaign that amounts to a mea culpa for decades of making really bad pizza. They admit the old stuff tasted like “ketchup on cardboard.”

We are now asked to believe that they have listened to their customers, and have built the best pizza ever as a result. The integrated television, radio and web effort includes “focus group” tapes where members complain about the old Domino’s pizza and a website where people are free to write their critiques on a rotating, Twitter-like wall of feedback.

While the effort certainly takes some interesting risks, it seems a bit heavy-handed in its delivery. It’s an effort to control and pre-package user-generated content in such a way that only one conclusion is possible: New Domino’s tastes better than old Domino’s. It’s pretty clear the “focus group” comments were story-boarded and approved long before they were taped.

It’s sort of like watching a movie whose outcome is clear in the first five minutes.

The other thing that makes this well-executed, yet transparently manipulated, effort seem insincere is that in previous commercials we were told by Domino’s that “Quality comes first, custom baking each pizza with carefully selected, skillfully prepared ingredients.”

(What exactly is a “skillfully-prepared ingredient” anyway?)

So does all this mean that in another few years we’ll be asked to believe that Really, Really New Domino’s is way better than that old 2010 New Domono’s?

The lesson here is that when companies try to crassly bend customer feedback—real or orchestrated–and try to leverage user-generated commentary to push their products, it usually falls flat.

Example: Microsoft’s TV commercials showcasing “real” people whose ideas were incorporated into Windows, saying, “Windows 7 was my idea and I’m a PC.”

The over-processed, documentary-style approach doesn’t fool anybody. And besides, do you know anyone who would actually say “I’m a PC”? (especially after Apple’s award-winning campaign of the decade in which the PC is personified by a doofy Bill Gates look-alike.)

Simply stated, the Domino’s and Microsoft commercials fail the authenticity test. Like bloodless zombies, they aren’t human, despite their large numbers.

Should the New Domono’s or Microsoft 7 campaigns prove to be successful, it will largely be the result of frequency paid for with tens of millions of media dollars. If annoying local car dealers, personal injury lawyers and furniture stores are proof of anything, it’s that frequency alone can generate results.

The problem is that mere repeition is incapable of building all-important brand attachment. It just confirms that Domino’s is a coupon-driven commodity with no loyalty, hooked like a junkie on frequency.

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